If you’re seeking true wilderness, there are few places that rival the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Bordering the Canadian territories and the Beaufort Sea, the Refuge encompasses over 19 million acres of Alaska’s Northern Slope and is home to a biologically diverse community of animal, bird, and plant species. This expansive, fertile ecosystem welcomes birds from each of the lower 48 U.S. states to hunt and nest, and herds of musk oxen, wolves, polar bears and caribou roam its lush terrain. While much of the Refuge is designated as ‘wilderness’, and therefore inaccessible to fossil fuel development, the Refuge’s Coastal Plain does not share this special designation, and remains at-risk for oil and gas exploitation.

As people of faith, we oppose drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge not only due to our concern for and stewardship of God’s creation, but also because we stand in solidarity with the Gwich’in Nation, the indigenous people who live in the Arctic. For their daily subsistence, the Gwich’in depend upon the Porcupine caribou herd, a caribou subspecies whose birthing patterns would be disrupted by oil exploration in the Refuge. Fossil fuel development on the Refuge’s Coastal Plain would ultimately threaten the survival of both the Porcupine caribou and the Gwich’in Nation.

In January of 2015, Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA) introduced legislation titled “The Udall-Eisenhower Arctic Wilderness Act” (HR 239). This legislation would designate approximately 1.5 million acres of wilderness along the Coastal Plain of the Refuge as a component of the National Wilderness Preservation System. Such a designation would protect the Refuge from oil and gas development, preserving its pristine, fragile ecosystem from the roads, pipelines, and oil derricks that accompany such exploration.

We are partnering with advocates from Interfaith Power and Light (IPL) to call on Congress to support HR 239. Once you click the take action link here, you will be guided to a joint landing page with IPL to send a letter to your members of Congress.

This blog was originally posted on The Episcopal Church's blog